In September, two-time world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua promised to regain the titles he lost to Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The 6ft 6inch fighter from Watford lost his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts in front of a capacity crowd at the North London venue and the millions watching around the world on television.
It was a low point in the former Olympic gold medallist’s career, but he has bounced back from defeat in the past and is confident he has what it takes to do the same again. Will AJ snatch the titles back from Usyk and set up a unification bout with fellow Englishman Tyson Fury, who holds the WBC strap?
Followers of the 32-year-old who is trained in Sheffield and managed by Essex boxing supremo Eddie Hearn at Matchroom Boxing hope so but traders at the world’s best betting sites don’t share that optimism. Bettors will find AJ has been written off as an underdog in the rematch that is expected to take place in the spring of 2022. A definite date and venue are yet to be agreed on but there was an automatic rematch clause in the original contract signed by both men and it’s one Team Joshua are keen to exercise.
Joshua entered the latest defence of his hard-fought world heavyweight championship belts at the home of Spurs with an impressive 23-1-0 record having KO’d 22 of his past opponents. He held all but one of the belts, with Fury owning the other. A summer showdown between AJ and Fury was the fight all boxing fans wanted to see and it was rumoured to be close to being agreed, only to fall flat at the eleventh hour.
Both parties pointed the finger of blame at each other with Joshua saying Fury was keen to dodge him while the Gypsy King accused the Londoner of running scared. Regardless of who was to blame for that fight falling through – and it’s likely we’ll never know – both champions were forced in different directions.
Fury went to America where he beat Deontay Wilder by KO for the second time in two fights, crushing the former champ in Las Vegas. He had to climb off the canvas to get that win but he was a deserving champion. It’s now unlikely we’ll see Fury and Wilde share a ring again in future. The first fight ended in a draw before Tyson won the next two by stoppage.
This left Anthony in a situation where he was required to fight the number one contender and that was the unbeaten Usyk who had moved up to heavyweight after dominating the cruiserweight division. Only two men have held world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight, David Haye and Evander Holyfield. History was made in North London on 25 September when Oleksandr joined one of the most exclusive and respected clubs in sport.
He beat Joshua on points, swaggering to a comfortable margin and coming close to halting AJ in the final round. It was a boxing masterclass from the smaller but quicker and technically better fighter who boxed and moved, landed scoring shots, then skipped out of distance. The bigger, stronger, heavier, but slower Joshua was left chasing shadows. He tried to compete with the jab of Usyk but couldn’t get his shots off. By the 10th round, the soon to be former champion needed a knockout to win, but it was obvious to everyone in attendance and watching the pay per view action that a KO wasn’t coming.
In a recent statement to the press, Joshua and Hearn signalled their intention to force through the rematch, stating Anthony was now an angrier fighter and wanted to hurt the Ukrainian. He’s sure to get another crack at the belts, but there was very little in the first fight to suggest Joshua has the tools to turn the tide. He must come back bigger and stronger, piling on the weight and muscle before entering the ring as a more natural heavyweight, sporting the kind of movie star physique we have come to expect from him.